I received this letter, and it broke my heart.
I want to get to know Jesus better, but I’ve done some horrible things and I’m ashamed. I’ve made one mistake after another, I think I’m probably beyond redemption. How can I pray when I don’t have a right to call on God?
This broke my heart because I knew exactly what this person was feeling. One of the biggest things that prevents people from coming closer to God is their shame over their past.
I have been there.
Because I had a lonely childhood in which I experienced intense emotional trauma, I ended up doing a lot of self-destructive things during my teens and early adult years. I hurt people and I hurt myself. I spent years in a really dark place and brought so many problems upon myself.
At the time, I felt that I had no right to ask God for help. But, out of desperation one day, I called out to Jesus because I had no one else to turn to. And He showed up. In a really big way. Here’s my response to this letter:
You are not beyond redemption. No matter what you have done in your life, you are still a child of God. He created you, therefore He loves you and will gladly welcome you home when you choose to return to Him.
There are many stories in the Bible that illustrate how much it means to God to have his people return to Him after being astray. Here are two of my favorites:
- The Prodigal Son – Luke 15: 11-32 – In this story, a son demands that his father give him his inheritance so he go his own way. With money-filled pockets, the son leaves his father’s house in pursuit of wild pleasure. Everything is great until his money runs out and a great famine hits the land. Realizing his only option is to return to his father’s house, the son decides to go back home. Read the story here to find out how his father reacts.
- The Lost Sheep – Luke 15: 1-7 – Read about what Jesus says about how he feels when one sheep, out of a hundred, becomes lost and then found.
These stories exemplify how God would react to those who’ve wandered away from Him and yet chose to return. He didn’t condemn them for their past, nor chastise them for their mistakes. Instead He rejoiced.
In fact God tells us that if we truly want He will make us new: “Though your sins are scarlet, I will make them white as snow.” – Isaiah 1:18
Jesus extends His invitation to the Kingdom to everyone, and I mean everyone. He doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t judge, doesn’t exclude. No matter what you have done. We know this because in the Bible, Jesus spent more time with the outcasts of society such as prostitutes and tax collectors. One of his apostles, Paul, had even been a murderer before he met Jesus.
Jesus didn’t say that only the “righteous” and “pure-hearted” can come to Him. He said “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
That’s the only criteria you need to come close to Jesus: being weary. That is, being tired of your current lifestyle; being worn out by the same destructive cycle, where you’re running around in circles and never getting to a place that makes you happy.
If you want to break this cycle, if you want to change, here are some beginning steps you can take:
- The first step is to pray diligently and ask God for help. Ask Him to help you turn away from your destructive lifestyle and make better choices. Here’s a prayer we can do together:
- Dear Heavenly Father, We praise your Holy Name and we thank you for loving us unconditionally and being compassionate to our humanness. Please forgive us for our sins. We want to come closer to you, Jesus, but there is so much fear and shame that’s preventing us from doing so. Please cleanse our hearts, our minds and our souls so we can be made new and begin a relationship with you. Lord, we know that You can do anything. Please have mercy on us. Help us turn away from our old lifestyle and strengthen us as we walk with you. In Jesus Holy Name we pray.
- Seek God. Seek Him so you can begin to build a new relationship with him. Jesus says, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all of your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13.
- How do we seek God? We do so by talking to Him in prayer, and by consistently incorporating him into every aspect of our lives. We also seek Him by studying His word, and by asking questions about faith in Christ to increase our knowledge.
- Focus on God’s love and compassion instead of your past mistakes.Thoughts will creep up in your mind to distract you from your goal of spiritual transformation. The enemy doesn’t want you to get close to God, so he will remind you over and over again about your flaws and mistakes.
- The moment you start to feel weak remember that our God is full of compassion: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.”– Psalm 116: 5-6
- It is also important for you to put on the armor of God. So you can deflect spiritual attacks: Ephesians 6: 10-18
- Remember that only good things come from the Lord. God is for us, not against us – Romans 8:31. So when you experience thoughts of desolation, confusion and negativity during your journey, acknowledge that it is the enemy working against you, testing your allegiance to God.But, there’s no need to worry. God has conquered everything. As mentioned in Ephesians, God’s word is your sword.
- Seek out partners in faith–these are people who will help you in your journey. They can pray with you, give you moral support during difficult times, learn with you, and inspire you to do good works that will glorify God rather than fulfill your own worldy inclinations.
- In the Bible it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”– Proverbs 27:17. This verse emphasizes the importance of who we surround ourselves with.
- Be patient with yourself. Refinement is a process that takes time, and you will make mistakes along the way; but fortunately for us, no one is more patient and compassionate than our God.“The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” – Psalm 116: 5-6
- Love others. Do good works. This will keep you busy. It will also elevate your confidence and make you feel like you are accomplishing something for God here on earth.
- Give praise. Be grateful and say prayers of thanks to God all the time. Praise is so powerful. Praise him for the fact that you’re alive; the fact that you have food to eat; that you have the ability to write and read; praise Him for the weather, for good people in your life, for sending His one and only Son to die for us on the cross. There are a multitude of things you can praise God for; they may seem very trivial at first, but what we often take for granted in our lives other people are praying desperately for.
- Praise will also open your heart for more blessings from God.
- Consider this verse: I’m hurt and in pain; Give me space for healing, and mountain air. Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks. – Psalm 69: 29-30
- It’s easy to give praise to God when everything in our life is great; but to give Him praise when we’re hurting and everything seems to be falling apart is a great task that God appreciates.
- Stick with Jesus. Keep working on your relationship with Him. Ask Him for protection against the snares of the enemy. Through the ups and downs of this process, He is your strength and salvation.
One final word:
The act of repentance is not about striving to be “holy.” It’s about wanting to be in a better place, wanting a peaceful mind and a heart that has a deep connection with God.
It is like going on a clean-eating diet, whereby you give up junk food that is only poisoning your body. As you continue on this path your old ways of self-destruction will no longer be appealing to you. You’ll feel amazing and ready to conquer the mission that God prepared for you.
Anyone can be redeemed, through Jesus. All you really need is the genuine desire for it, and God will take care of the rest.
Dear Lord Jesus,
I praise your Holy Name. Thank you for dying for me on the cross. Thank you for welcoming me back after my time spent away from You. Thank you for your unconditional love.
Lord, I ask that you help me change. I want to be better. I know refinement is a process that takes time and trials but I ask that you be with me throughout this journey.
In Jesus’s name we pray.